Natural disasters – an opportunity to learn

Starting yet another year with significant flooding and storm damage to member’s and member client’s properties all over Queensland almost leaves that bitter taste on our palates that this is not the end of the disaster years yet.

The storms, cyclones and floods of the last five years are having a huge impact on our state economy and on people’s lives when they deal with loss of property, significant damage to their homes and having to reconsider the level of safety for their families.. While living in a single stand-alone house usually means you only have one stakeholder to consider –yourself – the task is much less straight forward in a strata community scheme where there can be numerous owners with different interests and needs.

Strata managers from time to time experience reluctance from owners to invest in the scheme when the individual owner is not affected. It becomes a hard task for committees to work efficiently to implement disaster safety features in a scheme when there are significant financial investments required.

As a profession, we are looking at the owner’s property as a long term home rather than a place to live that is exchangeable. That viewpoint is towards the future and must include funds management to provide for repairs and maintenance of the building. Strata managers are well aware of the risks involved and make an effort to promote the building of sinking funds so that over the years not only maintenance can be completed but there are also funds available to review features of the scheme that may need an update, particularly if the government is introducing new standards.

A recent example is the introduction of legislation that in future electrical substations must be built at least above flood level. SCA (Qld) recommends that while there are no retrospective obligations in this instance, strata owners could benefit from taking note of new legislation and consider some of the new standards for their existing scheme infrastructure if the building is at risk.

One result of natural disasters is the tremendous roll on effect for many industries such as ours and how people look at strata community living as an alternative to living in a house. While individual house owners have to go the long mile in making their premises disaster proof, strata communities are governed by many laws and regulations that are designed to prevent several scenarios from happening. We are lucky to have the opportunity to directly engage with the Queensland government and ensure that improvements in the development and maintenance of schemes are constantly assessed. This perpetual process of reviewing legislation helps us define the key areas of concern for high rise buildings so we can make schemes safer and to ensure there are rules in place that help minimise costs to the individual owners.

In the past two years we have seen some changes to the body corporate legislation but what is in the pipeline for us in 2013 is long awaited and will have a much bigger impact. I am delighted that we have built a productive relationship with the Department of Justice and that we meet with the attorney-general and the commissioner for body corporate and community management on a regular basis. The synergies we are building are for the benefit of SCA (Qld) members just as much as the consumer who is the beneficiary of what we do in our day-to-day work.

At the time of writing, SCA (Qld) is working on a submission reflecting our views on how QCAT’s procedures negatively affect body corporate managers in dispute matters. Following closely is the mammoth task of reviewing the Property Occupations Bill 2013 which is one of four pieces of legislation that will result from the splitting of the PAMD Act.

Later in the year we are welcoming the prospect of a detailed review of the BCCM legislation with an expectation to have a final decision in regards to the lot entitlement matter.

All these reviews present us with the opportunity to engage with the public and make them aware of the opportunities of living in strata communities. We are heading towards our 30th year as an industry body and I am proud to be part of an organisation that is growing with so much talent and enthusiasm.

Our task as a board is to build on the success of the last two years and look at how we can take the industry to the next level.

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